Looking for a fun way to connect with friends? Try a virtual escape room! Josh and I got together virtually with a group of friends to play Gold Rush, one of The Escape Game’s Remote Adventures. From the comfort of our own homes, we had 1 hour to see if we could find where Clyde Hamilton stashed his gold before the mob did – and we succeeded, with 12 minutes and 3 seconds remaining!
What is an Escape Room?
The main objective of an escape room is to complete a “mission” by solving puzzles and clues. You have a set amount of time (normally 1 hour) to work together and “escape” the room. You’re locked in a room, though technically you can leave whenever you want. From there, you have to take in all the objects and details you see in the room. You might be working on decoding a puzzle, while someone else is trying to read a map. Solve a clue, and you may be rewarded with a lock combination or key to open another clue. It takes creativity, collaboration, and speed to beat the escape room. We’ve done escape rooms with our kids and their grandparents, with neighbors, and as a work teambuilder. What makes escape rooms fun are the combined elements of solving challenging puzzles, being in an interactive themed environment, and the added pressure of beating the clock!
How does The Escape Game Remote Adventure work?
There are different escape room themes you can choose from. We chose Gold Rush, but at the time of booking, The Heist and Ruins: Forbidden Treasure were also available. The Remote Adventures are played through Zoom, a video conferencing platform. You are emailed your Zoom code 24 hours before your game begins. You’ll need at least 3 players for the game, but you have to pay for at least 4 spots to reserve a game. The price person is cheaper than playing in person. We each paid $25+tax, versus $35+tax for an in-person game.
You will need a laptop or desktop computer for the best experience. It may be helpful to even have two devices, as you’ll have access to a dashboard where all your clues are stored, and another screen showing what your virtual reality assistant ‘sees’. You’ll also have the option of using the chat function in Zoom with your teammates. If you don’t have more than one computer, just use a split screen, or open another browser window. Paper and pencil is handy to have too!
Since you’re not physically at The Escape Game, a virtual reality assistant (in our case, the character named ‘Prospector’), brings the room to you. Our virtual reality assistant was working from the San Francisco location. This person wears a camera on their head, and serves as your ‘eyes’ for the game. We could tell the Prospector to do things like walk to the corner of the room, lift up a rug, enter codes into locks, and anything else we would do if we were playing the game in-person. You are also assigned a live game guide who is with you during the entire game. Our game guide, Justin, was located in Austin, Texas. The game really is designed to bring together people from all geographic locations! The game guide walks you through the intro video, shows you how all the functions on the computer work, and is on Zoom the entire time you play the game. When we all agreed we needed a clue, he gave us a hint.
The dashboard is where all your clues are digitally stored. They only get placed there by the game guide once you clearly ‘discover’ them through the virtual reality assistant. If you were playing the game in person, you might put all your puzzle pieces together to solve it, or place certain objects you find of value in an area to study. The dashboard serves this purpose. Once you’ve used up the object (like a key), or solved the puzzle, it disappears from the dashboard. Try to solve all the puzzles as you would in a regular in-person escape room, and hope you can do so under 1 hour!
Remote Adventure Escape Room vs. In-Person Escape Room
We were a little unsure of what this virtual experience would be like. Having completed several in-person escape rooms in the past, we wondered if the online version would be less exciting, easier, and not as immersive. How does the Remote Adventure compare with the in-person escape room?
– Can’t ‘see’ with your own eyes, but have to rely on the virtual reality assistant to be your eyes in the room for you
– Some of the effects are lost (like volcanos erupting in front of you, or smoke filling the room), but you can still see and hear things
– Your team is more focused, since you’re only seeing what the virtual reality assistant is looking at (with an in-person game, you’re likely to ‘divide and conquer’ clues around the room)
– The virtual reality assistant has to listen to all team members directing him/her, so you have to avoid talking over each other
– Your clues are on a digital dashboard, so you can’t hold them in your hands
– You get to experience the immersive environment
– You can actively use all your senses to help you solve the puzzles (turn puzzle pieces yourself, try to move objects around)
– Your team members can move freely throughout the room, versus being tied to what the virtual reality assistant is focusing on
– It’s easier for people to work together
Overall, our group was impressed with the game. For some, this was their first taste of an escape room. For the veterans, we agreed that we had a fun time! The folks at The Escape Game were super friendly and helpful. I had messaged some questions about payment (Do we pay for each couple even if we were sharing a computer, or per person? You pay per person.). In what I can only blame as quarantine brain, I had forgotten to include two people on our game reservation. I messaged The Escape Game and they were more than helpful in adding the additional guests. Our game guide and virtual reality assistant were both equally professional and courteous – remember, you are inviting them into your home with the Zoom video conference!
Despite having eight players in the game, the virtual reality assistant did a great job responding accurately to our requests. He looked around, picked up objects, and moved around the room as we asked, and it was nice that it was all at our normal eye level. The game guide may have guided us too much once or twice, but I wonder if that was because we were missing something obvious had we been in the actual room. Thumbs up for great service from start to finish.
The virtual experience had its pros and cons. In a time when it’s not recommended to be in closed spaces with a group of people, it’s a great alternative to hanging out with your friends and working together to solve a puzzle. You don’t even have to find a babysitter! You do, however, miss out on the side conversations you might have with your friends (catching up, talking about the kids, etc.). We were impressed with the technological aspects of the dashboard features. Had I remembered sooner, I would have used the 360-degree view function to ‘look’ around the room. The features in the physical escape room were pretty neat. There were impressive special effects like a water feature and a hidden door leading to another room. The folks at The Escape Game don’t skimp on details! We all had a blast doing The Escape Game Remote Adventure and would definitely recommend it. If you’ve got a group of people spread out geographically, this is an awesome way to spend time together. We will definitely have to check out the in-store location at the Mall of America.
The Escape Game: https://theescapegame.com/
Cost of Remote Adventure: $25+tax/person (in person adventure starts at $35+tax/person)
Located at: Mall of America, 300 East Broadway, Bloomington, MN